21st Century Shoe-Shine Boys, by Pater Tenebrarum

This article is pretty much chapter and verse on why the stock market should head down soon. It’s a good primer for those blissfully unaware of downside risk. From Pater Tenebrarum at acting-man.com:

Anecdotal Flags are Waved

“If a shoeshine boy can predict where this market is going to go, then it’s no place for a man with a lot of money to lose.”

– Joseph Kennedy

It is actually a true story as far as we know – Joseph Kennedy, by all accounts an extremely shrewd businessman and investor (despite the fact that he had graduated in economics*), really did get his shoes shined on Wall Street one fine morning, and the shoe-shine boy, one Pat Bologna, asked him if he wanted a few stock tips. Kennedy was amused and intrigued and encouraged him to go ahead. Bologna wrote a few ticker symbols on a piece of paper, and when Kennedy later that day compared the list to the ticker tape, he realized that all the stocks on Bologna’s list had made strong gains. This happened a few months before the crash of 1929.

 

Joseph Kennedy in 1914, at age 25 – at the time reportedly “the youngest ever bank president in the US”

Photo credit: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Kennedy sold all his stock market investments over the next several months and put the money in what he considered the safest banks. He had already made a fortune in the bull market, and reportedly augmented it later by going short in the bear market. We are pretty sure his meeting with the market-savvy shoe-shine boy wasn’t the only reason for which he decided to sell. He did mention the anecdote later in life though and the experience served to solidify a conclusion he had already arrived at: It was very late in the game and the market was likely to  crack badly fairly soon.

We felt reminded of this story when a good friend (who invests for a living) visited us this summer. He inter aliatold us about an acquaintance of his, whom he described as an autopilot investor who only very rarely looks at the market and has a record of getting the wrong ideas at the wrong time. His latest idea was noteworthy: he thought it would be a good idea to “sell volatility” (by writing puts, if memory serves). This was in July, just before the VIX reached a new all time low.

To continue reading: 21st Century Shoe-Shine Boys

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